Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and hope this blog will help with that. I am not an expert and I consider most of my research as a work in progress. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My Mayflower Ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

David Howes Kelley 1842-1925, West Dennis, MA

David Howes Kelley, my great-great-grandfather, came from a family of mariners, the youngest of eight children of Hiram Kelley and Abagail Howes, grandson of Elihu “The Ferryman” Kelley I wrote about earlier. To see that post, click here.
Mary Ann and David Kelley
 My grandmother, Millie, said David started out as a seaman, but later worked in a variety of jobs, including a house painter. I do wonder if he left the sea because of the seafaring related tragedies in his family or if it had become less lucrative as the golden age of sail ended.

David’s oldest brother Hiram died in the West Indies of Yellow Fever at age 21. His brother Isaac, who was the closest in age to David, died at sea at age 23, leaving a young daughter and a pregnant wife. His nephew Scotto B.N. Kelley (son of Ezra) died at sea at age 31.His brother-in-law was lost at sea in a gale.

Millie was born in the house where David lived and was there at different times in her childhood. He died when she was eight, but she had vivid memories of him and was incredibly fond of him. She respected her grandmother, but said she was quite religious and stern. David was playful, sweet and funny. She was surprised to find he had suffered so many losses in his life as his attitude toward life didn't portray that kind of sadness.

David married first Lucina Doane Ellis at West Dennis 20 December 1864. They had children Roland, Lila and Hiram. Hiram died as an infant, but Roland lived to age 63 and Lila to 84. Lucina died in 1874 at 30 years of age. Roland married Lilla Baker and they raised their four children in Brockton and later moved to Yarmouth. Lila married David Nickerson and they raised their four children in Yarmouth.
Roland Kelley in the 1920s
 He married 2nd Mary E. Chase on 4 May 1876 at Harwich. They had a daughter, Olive, born at Dennis and who died at age 11.

David married his third wife, Mary Ann Kelley (daughter of Valentine and Rosana (Eldredge) Kelley of Dennisport) in Boston in 1881 and was a mariner there, but he didn’t stay there long as they were in West Dennis in 1883, Brockton in 1884 and 1888, West Dennis in 1890. He was likely in Brockton to find work to adequately support his family. The Kelley Genealogy by Eunice Kelley Randall gives David two wives, understandably getting the two Mary's confused. 

David lived for most of his life and died in the family homestead on Ferry Street in West Dennis that his father built. My great-grandmother Ethel Kelley and grandmother Millie Booth were also born in that house.
The Ferry Street House, West Dennis
There are now other homes between the house and Bass River, but back then they owned the property down to the waterfront and had a fishing shanty on the river. Even after he left the sea, David kept boats and was an avid fisherman. My cousin June Kelley Willard said there is a painting with David’s fishing shanty in the background at what was Bank of Boston in Yarmouth. I wish I went to see it when she told me, as I don’t know the current name of the bank.
David Kelley's Fishing Shanty on Bass River, West Dennis

David and Mary Ann had: Hiram, Charles, Arthur, Ethel (my great-grandmother), Harold, Lester, Robert.

Hiram and Lester died as infants. Robert “Robby” died at age 20 in the 1918 flu pandemic. He contracted the disease when visiting his fiancee in Lowell. He was the youngest in the family and my great-grandmother Ethel adored him. She kept a small program of his grammar school graduation, which I still have.
Robby Kelley
 Charlie married first Annie Thompson and had Edward, Gordon and Nanette. He married 2nd Ellen Marren. He died at age 69.
Charlie Kelley
Arthur married Susan Gage, they settled at Avon and had nine children. He married 2nd Mildred Brown and third May ____ and died at age 84.
Arthur Kelley (thank you to James Roscoe for this photo)

Ethel, my great-grandmother, married Wallace Booth of Cowansville Quebec and they had six children, with three dying as infants, but Wallace Cedric, Mildred and Charlotte all lived to old age. Ethel died in Falmouth in 1981, at age 90.
Ethel Kelley Booth with Cedric and Mildred

Harold married Marion Goodspeed and had Harold and Mavis. He died at age 69.
Harry Kelley

Mary Ann Kelley was active in the Reorganized Church of the Latter Day Saints, as were some of her children, including Polly (whom she had by a prior relationship), Ethel, Harold, Charles, and Arthur (who later left the church). David was a member of the church, but doesn’t seem to have been very active, so perhaps joined to appease his wife. 
RLDS Church in Dennisport
On 19 August 1925, David died in the West Dennis house where he was born. He was 83 years of age. His death certificate says he died of apoplexy (i.e. a stroke), and that he was a house painter. Millie said he was working up until his death and on the day he died he came home from painting a house next to the West Dennis Cemetery feeling exhausted and went to his room to lie down. When his wife Mary Ann went to check on him he was already gone.
West Dennis Cemetery

I don't think David ever had much financial success, but what a work ethic he possessed to still be performing manual labor at age 83 on a hot summer day.  Although he suffered so much loss in his life, he was well loved by his family and remembered fondly by his granddaughter 70 years after his death.

Mary Ann lived as a widow for many years, dying at age 85 in 1941, in the same West Dennis house.
Mary Ann Kelley in her Ferry Street yard

David was a direct descendant of David O’Kelley (spelled in various ways), the first of the name on Cape Cod in the 17th century. Because most everyone else was English, he was sometimes referred to as “David the Irishman” in records. David's line to the first David: David Howes Kelley>Hiram Kelley and Abagail Howes>Elihu Kelley and Thankfull (?Baxter)>Eleazer Kelley and Hannah Baker>Eleazer Kelley and Sarah Browning>Jeremiah Kelley and Sarah (?Chase)>David Kelley and Jane Powell.


  1. Wow - I'm envious of all your photos of family members. You tell a great story of your family! I have spent summers on Cape Cod (Harwich Port) all my life but have no roots there - I wish I did!

  2. Hi Wendy: Thanks for your kind words. I'm lucky that my great-grandmother had a lot of family photographs and that my grandmother kept them. Harwich Port is such a pretty place!

  3. I came upon this wonderful family history while searching for information regarding my gr-great grandmother Mary E. Mead that met and married David Kelley in NYC. Unfortunately, I found the wrong Kelley family, however I loved reading about yours! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Diane. There are a million David Kelley's out there! Chris

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  5. Hi Chris, we have chatted before, I am writing about David kelleys photographed grave. Is it listed with two wives? I am confused

    1. Oh my gosh you do explain it. Never mind me!